Have you ever applied to a job and waited months to hear back? Or, maybe, you never heard back? Learn the right way to follow up on a job application to stand out as an applicant and gain information about the search.
The Employer’s Perspective
Strategize your follow-up by thinking about the job search from the employer’s perspective. The employer posts a job, receives applications (sometimes hundreds), reviews them, invites candidates for interviews (sometimes several rounds), makes an offer, negotiates for an acceptance, then closes the search. Employers often wait to send rejection notices to other applicants until after the candidate accepts or even starts the position; they don’t want to lose their pool of top candidates until they are sure their first choice has committed. This entire process can range from weeks to months. That’s why you might receive a rejection notice months after applying – the employer waited until the whole search was complete and notified all applicants at once.
Whom to Contact
In order to follow up on your job application, you will need the contact information of the recruiter or search committee chair. This could be someone in the human resources (HR) department or the organizational unit for the job. For example, if the posted job is a software developer, the contact could be the organization’s HR manager or the software developer team lead.
Always save the job posting for later reference, as job boards often remove the posting after the application period closes. If you’re lucky, the job posting will list a contact person with their phone number or email address. Otherwise, you’ll have to use the company website or LinkedIn to track down the contact information. If you’re still not sure whom to contact, the HR department is a good place start. Even if they’re not managing the search, they probably can tell you who is.
Once you have the contact information, you’ll need to decide your reason for following up. Keep in mind that employers typically will not tell you the status of your specific application due to organizational hiring policies.
If you have recently submitted your application, you can contact (call or email) the employer to verify that they received your complete application. The employer can confirm that they did receive your application, but they are not likely to give you more information about a decision on your application thus far. Note that if you did not submit a complete application, your application likely has been or will be rejected. Regardless of the reason, employers receiving an incomplete application will think you are not attentive to detail.
Alternatively, you can contact the organization to ask about the status of the search or the expected search timeline. Again, the organization will likely not tell you if you are a candidate, but you can guess what your application status might be. Perhaps, for example, it has been a month since you applied and you have not been extended an interview invitation. The employer could tell you that they currently are conducting interviews, in which case the employer probably passed on your application. Or, the employer could still be reviewing applications, and you could still get an interview.
Now that you know how to follow-up on your job application, make sure keep the following in mind:
- Do not ask about the status of or ask the employer to review your application. The employer likely has hundreds of applications. It is inconvenient to the employer to locate and review your specific application outside of their designated process. You do not want to make a poor impression. Furthermore, most organization hiring policies do not allow that information to be given out anyway. Instead, ask about the status of the search in general.
- Do not show up in person or otherwise contact the organization more than once or twice. This is very off-putting to the employer, shows a disrespect of their time and boundaries, and will hurt your application more than it helps. Instead, spend your time pursuing parallel opportunities.
- Be professional and error-free in your follow-up communication. Sending a follow-up email with typos shows a lack of attention to detail. You do not want your follow-up to land your otherwise stellar application in the trash.
Have questions about following up on your job application? Schedule a Same Day Career Coaching Session with the Center for Career Development.